SIKESTON -- Through a state grant Bootheel Counseling Services is working to decrease the number of young people who die by suicide -- the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 24.
Two youth suicide prevention workshops are scheduled for June 7 at Bootheel Counseling Services in Sikeston. The first will be from 8 a.m. to noon and the other from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Another workshop is also planned from 8 a.m. to noon June 5 at the Bootheel Counseling facility in Bloomfield.
"The focus is to help adults recognize the behavior pattern that places individuals at risk for suicide and to develop stages to intervene before the behavior risks evolve further into suicide or an attempt," said Sylvia Webster, crisis therapist at Bootheel Counseling Services, about the workshops.
The free training is made possible by the Missouri Department of Mental Health through the Youth Suicide Prevention Initiative.
"It's really a relevant issue for our part of the country," Webster said about suicide prevention.
According to Centers for Disease Control, 19 percent of students have "seriously considered" attempting suicide and 8 percent have made a suicide attempt.
"For example, if someone breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, especially teens, unfortunately, it seems very traumatic to them," Webster said. "Kids are devastated from rejections and a sense of belonging."
More Missourians die from suicide than by driving while intoxicated, homicide and AIDS than residents of Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska -- the states included with Missouri in Region 7.
In Missouri the rate of suicide is also higher -- 12.9 percent -- than the states in its region. Over 700 Missourians die by suicide annually -- more than the number of people who die by homicides.
On the national level, an average of one person completes suicide every 17.2 minutes. For every person who completes suicide, as many as 25 will make a nonlethal attempt.
While professionals in child service, health care or law enforcement are likely attendants to the free workshops, anyone can attend, Webster said.
Often times professionals in these fields may only touch on youth suicide prevention during schooling, which is why attending the workshop would be beneficial, Webster said.
"It would be beneficial for anybody who is around the targeted population to attend because it would be a great training," said Laura Stone, director of Bootheel Counseling Services public relations.
From parents and grandparents to educators and day care workers, there is no limit to who can attend.
"More and more school counselors are seeing an increase in school threat assessments from students in kindergarten up to the high school level who are at risk to harm themselves or others," Webster said.
Even Little League coaches could benefit from the information one day. "Some Little League coaches may be the only mentor some children ever feel close to and get to develop a bond with," Stone said.
Those who've had a suicide in their family are also welcome to attend, Webster said.
"This will help them (attendees) to know what to look for, how to help somebody and where the resources are should they come into contact with individuals or families who are in distress," Stone said.
In addition to Webster, presenters will be Bootheel Counseling's clinical/crisis therapists Angela Lutmer and Kristi Ottis.
Topics to be addressed include warning signs, risk factors, myths and frequently asked questions, protective factors (how to approach a person who may be contemplating suicide, what to do for that person, etc.) and available community resources. Attendees will also receive handouts.
Adults really interested in learning how to intervene before a youth's risk of suicide gets to a critical level should consider attending one of the four-hour workshops, Webster said.
"Prevention is always cheaper than a cure," Webster said. "Unfortunately, a completed suicide has no cure."